Uzia Galil, a founding father of Israel’s tech industry, dies aged 96

Galil, an Israel Prize recipient, fled from German-invaded Romania when he was 16; an electrical engineering Technion graduate, he set up Elron to foster tech firms

Shoshanna Solomon is The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Uzia Galil, a founding father of Israel's high tech industry (YouTube screenshot)
Uzia Galil, a founding father of Israel's high tech industry (YouTube screenshot)

Uzia Galil, one of the founding fathers of Israel’s tech ecosystem, has died at the age of 96.

Galil, who received the Israel Prize, the nation’s highest accolade in 1997 for his contribution to the state with the development of its tech industry, was a founder of Elron Electronic Industries, the first high-tech multinational holding company based in Israel.

Since 1962 the firm has helped set up, fund and develop some 30 technology-based companies in a variety of fields, including medical imaging, defense electronics, communications, machine vision and semiconductors.

Galil served as CEO of Elron for 38 years until 1999 and was the chairman or director of most of the companies founded by Elron. Prior to founding Elron, he was the head of the Electronic Department of the Faculty of Physics at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology (1957-1962). He was also the head of electronic research in the Israeli Navy (1954-57), where he did his army service, and worked in R&D for Motorola in Chicago (1953-54).

Born in 1925 in Bucharest, Romania, Galil, an only child, left his birthplace in 1941 as part of the last youth group authorized to leave the country after the Germans invaded Bucharest. He reached Israel by bus, after his journey took him to Istanbul, Aleppo and Beirut. He graduated in electrical engineering from the Technion in 1947 and received an MA in electrical engineering from Purdue University in the US in 1953.

In 1999, Galil founded Uzia Initiatives and Management Ltd., providing management support to young entrepreneurs from a variety of regions in Israel.

“I was used all my life always to look at the future,” Galil said in a speech at Purdue University in 2016, visiting his alma mater for the first time in 52 years. “I am always excited about the things we can do and primarily the things we should do and are not always doing. Living in Israel — as you know a small country and having to operate worldwide — is very different than living in the US and Europe. We have to deal with very, very serious problems and probably one thing that I learned and guides me is to say, what can we offer that will be different? What is the relative advantage? And this is the thing that has driven me and drives me today, looking ahead.”

“Being very much involved with young people that start new things I think I have a number of guidelines that I have learned from mistakes from the past, to succeed in the future,” Galil said.

“What really counts,” he said, is to determine “where do we want our world to be tomorrow. ” To do that, you must “get your imagination to fly and dream.”

“We live in the present,” he said. “Sure, we did a lot in the past, but what is really important now is how can we, with all we know and we do, create a better future.”

Galil received honorary doctorate degrees from the Technion, the Weizman Institute of Science, the Polytechnic University in New York, and Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

Commenting on his death, Elron said in a statement: “Uzia Galil is the founding father of the Israeli high-tech industry in the early 1960s, when Israel’s brand was oranges and orchards. He founded Elron with the vision of building a ‘knowledge-based’ industry. Elbit Systems, Elscint, Orbotech, Zoran, Netvision, Given Imaging are some of the many dozens of companies that were built and grew in Elron – the fruit of Uzia’s vision.”

Galil was “always ahead of his time in his vision,” Elron’s statement continued. He first operated in the electronics industry, then in the information industry and then in information-based medicine, Elron’s statement said.

“Until his last day he was involved with young entrepreneurs and new companies. He was a people’s person that was connected to youth and everything was done with modesty and humanity that are hard to find today.”

Galil belongs to a generation of modern and Zionist pioneers that lifted the nation “on the technology and information highway. This is a sad day for the State of Israel in general and for Elron in particular,” the statement said.

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